Tough de­but for ex-Leaf

Joe Lun­dri­gan, who faced the French Con­nec­tion in his first NHL game, dis­ap­pointed he will miss Hockey Day in Canada for med­i­cal ap­point­ment

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY DAVE KEARSEY dkearsey@thewest­ern­ Twit­ter: WS_S­port­sDesk

It only took three sec­onds for Joe Lun­dri­gan to be of­fi­cially in­tro­duced to the Na­tional Hockey League.

Lun­dri­gan, a 69-year-old Cor­ner Brook na­tive, has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first city na­tive to play in the Na­tional Hockey League.

Lun­dri­gan played his first of 49 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs dur­ing the 1972-73 NHL cam­paign.

The Leafs were play­ing the Buf­falo Sabres on that night so the French Con­nec­tion — a nick­name put on a for­ward line con­sist­ing of Hall of Famer Gil­bert Per­rault at cen­tre and all-stars Rick Martin and Rene Robert, on the wings — were in the build­ing.

Late in the game, with the Leafs two-men short­handed, Leafs coach John McLel­lan gave Lun­dri­gan his first shift.

Lun­dri­gan looked up and stared at the French Con­nec­tion with a face­off deep in the Leafs zone.

Per­rault won the face-off, blew by Lun­dri­gan, and banged it in the net be­fore he could blink.

“You al­ways re­mem­ber some­thing like that,” Lun­dri­gan said with a hearty chuckle ear­lier this week from his home in Shube­nacadie, N. S.

Lun­dri­gan played his mi­nor hockey in Cor­ner Brook and he played a num­ber of years in the provin­cial se­nior hockey league with a num­ber of teams be­fore he opted to play univer­sity hockey on the main­land.

A friend of his dur­ing his univer­sity hockey days put Lun­dri­gan’s name on the radar with the coach of the Tulsa Oil­ers and he even­tu­ally got an in­vite to train­ing camp.

He broke into the pro ranks with the Oil­ers in the Cen­tral Hockey league in 1971 where he col­lected three goals and 34 as­sists in 67 games.

The fol­low­ing year he was in the show with the Leafs, where he played 49 games, fin­ish­ing up with two goals and seven as­sists.

His NHL ca­reer would in­clude 10 games with the Washington Cap­i­tals dur­ing the 1974-75 sea­son where he was held point­less.

Lun­dri­gan had to deal with in­juries that didn’t help pro­long his ca­reer and he found out hockey was busi­ness as un­drafted play­ers like him­self were of­ten pushed by the way­side by guys who came into the sys­tem with a con­tract in hand.

“It’s too bad things didn’t work out and I played a bit longer, but that’s life and you move on and do what you have to do,” he said.

Lun­dri­gan, one of only three play­ers from Cor­ner Brook to play in the NHL, was in­vited back home to cel­e­brate in the 2018 Scotibank Hockey Day in Canada Jan. 17-20 in Cor­ner Brook, but un­for­tu­nately he won’t be able to come across the Gulf be­cause he has an ap­point­ment with his reti­nol­o­gist for his mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion on Jan. 19 in Hal­i­fax and he can’t miss it.

“It’s still the same, but I could wake up any day and it’s gone that’s the way it works,” he said of his chal­leng­ing con­di­tion.

Lun­dri­gan is proud of the fact he was one of the few to have the op­por­tu­nity to play the game in the best hockey league on the planet and he ap­pre­ci­ates all the good that come from his in­volve­ment in the game both when he was play­ing and years later as he re­flects on the jour­ney.

“I am dis­ap­pointed be­cause I was look­ing for­ward to see­ing some old and fa­mil­iar faces for sure,” he said.

He ap­pre­ci­ates get­ting an in­vite from the host com­mit­tee and would have been gung-ho if it was any­thing but his health keep­ing him from shar­ing in the cel­e­bra­tion of the game from coast to coast.


Joe Lun­dri­gan is seen here wear­ing his Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni jacket. Lun­dri­gan was hop­ing to come home to Cor­ner Brook for Hockey Day in Canada but he won’t be able to re­turn be­cause he has an eye ap­point­ment with his reti­nol­o­gist on June 19 in Hal­i­fax.

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